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The Haryana rapes (2012)

The Dalit Mahila Garima Yatra expressed solidarity with rape survivors. Photo: ASHA KOWTAL/AIDMAM

In the state of Haryana, numerous Dalit women and underage girls were raped in September-October 2012, often with extreme brutality. While women from other social groups have also been the victims of rape, Dalit women are particularly vulnerable to such crimes. According to some estimates, 90 percent of crimes against Dalit women are not reported due to fear of social ostracism and threats to personal safety and security.

In one of the most publicised cases, a 16-year old Dalit girl was raped for three hours by at least seven men – mostly from a dominant caste - in the village of Dabra, Hisar district, on 9 September. The perpetrators filmed the incident with their cell phones. Nine days later, as he discovered what had happened to his daughter, her father committed suicide. Only when faced with mass protests, did the police decide to take action against the suspected rapists.

This and numerous other attacks prompted a newspaper commentator to write the following in The Hindu: “If you are a poor woman who is raped, you cannot even imagine a life where there will be justice. If you are a poor woman and a Dalit, then the chances of justice are even slimmer.”

Dalit activists reacted to the reports by sending a fact finding mission to Haryana and, subsequently, by organising a march to some of the places where Dalit women and girls had been raped. This Dalit Mahila Garima Yatra expressed solidarity with the rape survivors and outrage against the institutionalised sexual violence against Dalit women.

In May 2013, four men were sentenced to life imprisonment in the Dabra case. Six others were acquitted. The victim disagreed with the acquittals and has challenged the verdict. More than a year after the gang-rape, she still suffers from health problems.

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